Some critical readings of Gatsby
1. James E Miller jnr.The Fictional Technique of F Scott Fitzgerald (1957)[65-67, 71 Icon Critical Guide]
A Structuralist and Reader-Response reading: Miller discusses the form and function of a modernist novel. He undertakes a key discussion of Nicks first person narration eye witness accounts and reconstruction of events from explicit or implied sources or from Nicks imagination, also reporting anothersnarrative. Miller discusses the alteration of the chronological narrative the realism of getting to know someone as you night in real life moving from first impressions to more detailed points.
There are three methods by which Nick Carraway informs the reader of what is happening or what has happened in Gatsby: most frequently he presents his own eye-witness accounts of other people, sometimes in their own words, sometimes his own, and sometimes he reconstructs an event from various sources newspapers, servants, his own imagination but presents his version as a connected narrative. He is initially placed on the edge of the story, but through Jordan Nick becomes.. involved in Gatsbys pursuit of Daisy, the material symbol of his dream
Fitzgeralds use of modified first person enables him to avoid the large false face peering around the corner of a characters head (Fitzgerald letters 1934) and achieve a realism impossible to an omniscient author.. through Nick, Fitzgerald places the reader in direct touch with the action, eliminating himself as the author entirely.. After his brief but dramatically impressive first glimpse of Gatsby, Fitzgerald works backwards and forwards over his past until the complete portrait finally emerges at the end of the book.
2. Victor A Donyo Patterns in The Great Gatsby (1969) [82 - 8]
Donyo applies New Criticismto thepatterns and unity of the book, praised much by New Critics. He looks for codas and leitmotifs in the book, but does not go as far as some new Critics in suggesting that one does not need to take the authors intentions (expressed or inferred) into account , as some New Critics did, calling this the intentional fallacy. Donyo relates patterns he finds in Gatsby to Fitzgeralds revisions and concludes he fulfilled his intention to produce a consciously artistic achievement.Donyo uses formalist approachesthat were dominant in criticism of the 1960s.
Several patterns of the novel are obvious. The first three chapters present the different settings and social groupings of three evenings. Fitzgerald calls attention to this pattern when he has Nick say: Reading over what I have written so far I see I have given the impression that the events of three nights several weeks apart were all that absorbed me. Similarly, the patterning presents two very different characters, George Wilson and Tom Buchannan, as cuckolded husbands: I stared at him and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery less than an hour before. Clearly Fitzgerald is aware of these patterns and wants the reader to share the awareness.
Fitzgerald indicates the relationship between sense by presenting for example the same tableau twice: Daisy and Jordan both in white (in chapter 1) when Nick renews his acquaintance, the second when Gatsby intends to reclaim Daisy. In the later scene Jordan and Daisy say together We cant move. In the first daisy says as her first direct statement in the novel Im p-paralyzed with happiness. This statement however was inserted after the second scene was written which.. besides presenting an apt characterisation of Daisy, likens her feelings to those shortlybefore theargument with Tom. Through this repetition, Fitzgerald emphasises Daisys lack of growth within the novel.
Besides adding depth of characterisation, the patterning also shapes the readers attitudes towards events and themes The readers uncritical acceptance (of the highly improbable plot manipulation whereby Daisy runs down her husbands mistress) is influenced by something nick says in the coda of chapter III.. the near accident subliminally prepares the reader to think of Daisy hitting Myrtle as a possible event. After all, Jordan nearly did a similar thing. The readers attitude is more frequently shaped by an ironic juxtaposition of such themes as romantic idealization and realistic disillusionment.
Nicks scornful attitude toward romance primarily refers to the love of Gatsby for daisy, but the situation parallels Myrtles first meeting with Tom and reflects a disillusioned view of such an event. Myrtles desperate romanticism and Nicks uncomfortable realism. Is juxtaposed to and qualifies the other. A similar attempt to influence the readers attitudes occurs with analogous scenes in the codas of chapters V and VII. In each case, Nick sees a tableau of Daisy sitting and talking with a man holding her hand. Fitzgerald balances the moment of romantic bliss (when G has just re-won daisy and is experiencing sublime happiness) with a decidedly realistic description of Daisy after the auto accident sitting with Tom : He was talking intently across the table at her and in his earnestness his hand had fallen upon and covered her own. This second scene signals Gatsbys loss of Daisy. I addition, the repetition destroys the uniqueness of Gatsbys moment of happiness and thereby makes the reader question the validity of his romantic idealization.
The readers attitude toward romantic idealisation and realistic disillusionment is also shaped by the elaborate patterning .. of a man and woman kissing.. The presentation of the kiss at her cheek of the movie director and his star ( VI) .. relates to Nicks description of Gatsby kissing Daisy in the coda of the same chapter, with its dominant tone of romantic idealisation, culminating in the flower simile: At his lips touch she blossomed for him like a flower. The idealization is touching, but Nicks sarcastic insertions and similar incidents qualify the readers response. A similar incident from a lees romantic point of view occurs in the coda of chapter IV between Nick and Jordan, where Nick reserved his emotional commitment. Even Nick calls attention to the relationship between the kisses by saying Unlike Gatsby.
It is clear that Fitzgerald fulfilled his intention t write a consciously artistic achievement, and a knowledge of the ways in which the novel is intricately patterned from minor details up to large structural units partially explains how Fitzgerald created a novel that it something extraordinary and beautiful and simple (Bruccoli and Duggan 1980)
3. Leyland J Person Herstory and Daisy Buchanan in American Literature(1978/9)(116, 17, 119, 21)
Person attempts to win back focus on Daisy. As a Feminist reading, it takes the view that Daisy is demonised by Nick and disempowered by Gatsby , who takes her story and makes it his and then into history; creating a platonic ideal for her that no human could live up to. Nick does the same and Person suggests he makes her stand for the corruption of the American dream. Daisys tale has its own dream and desires, and Person views her as ultimately Gatsbys female double. Persontakes a psychoanalytic approach much favoured inthe 1970s.
Few (male) critics write about Daisy without entering the unofficial competition of maligning her character. Marius Bewley refers to her vicious emptiness.. Alfred Kazin judges her vulgar and inhuman finally Leslie Fielder sees her as a dark destroyer, a purveyor of corruption and death and the first notable anti-virgin of our fiction, the prototype of the blasphemous portraits of Fair Goddess as bitch in which C20th fiction abounds. (1967) Such an easy polarization into Good Boy/Bad Girl however, arises from a kind of critical double standard.. Daisy in fact is more victim than victimizer; she is victim first of Toms cruel power, but then of Gatsbys increasingly depersonalised vision of her. She becomes the unwitting grail in Gatsbys adolescent quest to remain faithful to his seventeen-year-old conception of self. Thus, Daisys reputed failure of Gatsby is inevitable; no woman, no human being, could ever replicate the platonic ideal he has invented.
Daisy herself expresses the same desire to escape the temporal world. If Daisy fails to measure up to Gatsbys fantasy, he for his part fails to match up to hers. At the same time that she exists as the ideal object of Gatsbys quest, she becomes his female double. She is both anima and doppelganger and The Great Gatsby is finally the story of the failure of a mutual dream. The novel describes the death of a romantic vision of America and embodies that theme in the accelerated dissociation the mutual alienation of men and women before the materialistic values of modern society.
Despite the tendency to view her as a monster of bitchery (Hunt and Suarez 1973), Daisy has her own complex story, her own desires and needs. In choosing Tom over the absent Gatsby she has allowed herself to be shaped forever by the crude force of Toms money. Yet Daisy discovers as early as her honeymoon with Tom that his world is hopelessly corrupt; in fact, Daisys lyric energy (which so attracts Gatsby) must be (literally) frozen before she can marry Tom. .. She has been baptized by ice and with her romantic impulses effectively frozen, she becomes paralysed with conventional happiness as Mrs Tom Buchannan. Her present ideal, transmitted to her daughter, is to be a beautiful little fool because that is the best thing a girl can be (Ch 1)
Daisy is victimized by a male tendency to project a self-satisfying, yet ultimately dehumanising, image on woman. If Gatsby wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy; if Nick had nearly recovered a fragment of lost words through the inspiring magic of her voice, then Daisys potential selfhood is finally betraye